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LARSON: Proud to be an American

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

Proud to be an American. For Leslie Watkins of Snellville, that is more than a song title. It’s a way of life.

As a proud and active member of the William Day Chapter — Daughters of the American Revolution, Watkins spends her days traveling around presenting living history presentations on lifestyle during colonial times.

Working with her brother-in-law, Bruce Maney, a member of the Button Gwinnett chapter — Sons of the American Revolution, they carry their “Traveling Trunk,” one of 13 such visual aids supplied by the Georgia Society of the SAR. Dressed in period costumes, Watkins and Maney display more than 130 items people used during the time of the American Revolution.

While their presentation is extremely entertaining, it is not mere play acting. Yes, Watkins has a B.A. degree in speech and theater, but add to this her M. Ed. in English, multiple state certifications including Gifted Education and 32 years experience in her field, with 24 of those years spent teaching at Brookwood High School.

Her Education Outreach Program is geared towards the Fourth Grade Social Studies Performance Standards and fully complements the curriculum. Having spent years training Gwinnett County Public School teachers to accurately assess students on Gateway essays, Watkins is skillful in addressing specific educational objectives in a 15 to 60 minute presentation.

Taking the subject matter beyond the text book, Watkins and Maney make lessons real with such items as buffalo horns, a quill pen and a turtle shell with rattles. Maney dresses like a continental soldier, but this program does not include any weapons. However, they dramatically present details of military battles and survival battles of every day life, adding humor when they can by calling boys’ corn husk dolls “homemade action figures.”

Watkins said her favorite part of the program is performing a first person narrative of Nancy Hart, who even if she hadn’t had bright red hair would have been considered one of the most colorful characters of her time.

Wearing a red wig and getting into Hart’s spunk and spirit, Watkins says her goal is to empower fourth grade girls to realize they can do whatever they need to do.

Since 2010, Watkins and Maney have visited more than 200 schools and interacted with over 18,000 school children and there is evidence of a positive correlation between their presentation and students’ CRCT scores. And the best part of the program is that it is entirely free.

But you don’t have to be a fourth grader to get in on this act. Watkins and Maney perform for historical organizations, genealogical societies, senior groups and historic events. They also lay wreathes on newly discovered the graves of Patriot soldiers.

Their next Gwinnett appearance will be at the Winn House on Feb. 22, George Washington’s birthday, to commemorate Georgia History Month. (More info: www.gwinnetths.org )

To schedule a program, call Bruce Maney at 770-972-1751 or email milusbruce@aol.com.

Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at susanlarson79@gmail.com.